Milk Maid, Eagulls, and Weird MenaceEdit this event
There's a saying that 'everything comes in threes' and tonight is no exception. While Sunday evenings aren't normally considered to be anything more than a prolonged hangover session in front of the television set, there are several reasons (well, three to be exact) why Nottingham is literally bursting at the seams this evening. The sold out drum and bass Detonate event around the corner at Rock City and post rock-cum-metal extravaganza that is Buttonpusher over at The Chameleon account for a large proportion, depending on which faction of the genre demographic you belong to. Then of course, there's the excellent line-up put together by local DIY promoters Bored Sport in the upstairs room of Spanky Van Dykes, which is why we're here. Whereas in the past, the biggest concern has been whether anyone would turn up to such an event, now it's a case of worrying whether there'll be enough space to accommodate everybody, such is the growth of Nottingham's music scene these past few months.
What this also brings with it is a plethora of new bands, and tonight's openers Weird Menace fit that description to a tee. Having formed literally a matter of months ago and featuring La La Vasquez bassist Merida Richards on drums, the all-girl trio make the kind of angular driven post-punk we've come to expect from many such bands currently hovering around the UK underground scene at present. The likes of Trash Kit and Pens spring to mind, as well as Richards' regular outfit, with the three-way vocal harmonies in particular helping Weird Menace stand out from the crowd. Of course it's still only early days, but with a few more gigs under their belt, the future looks promising.
Next up are Leeds-based quintet Eagulls, a band whose visceral brand of ear-scraping punk rock first caught the eye of DiS at last year's In The City industry showcase. With two of the band originating from the Derbyshire smalltown of Ripley, it's kind of like a home-from-home return, and from the outset, their confrontational style - or rather that of vocalist George Mitchell - makes them an even more dangerously exciting proposition. At times it all threatens to fall apart. Problems with the sound cause long delays in between songs, while at one point during 'Terms And Conditions' Mitchell's microphone packs up all together. By the time anti-poseur rant 'Jackson Bollocks' closes the set, with Mitchell berating the audience for standing still throughout rather than interacting with the band, it's clear Eagulls have an abundance of ability to stir up emotions. Maybe tonight was a slight case of right place, wrong time, but surely that time will come sooner rather than later.
Also making their first appearance in the city are Mancunian quartet Milk Maid. While most of the conversation pre-gig has been about one of them formerly being in Britrock also-rans Nine Black Alps (bass player & singer/songwriter Martin Cohen), it takes precisely thirty seconds of 'Not Me' to convince all and sundry that his current outfit are about to follow the same post-grunge lineage as the aforementioned a few years back. Instead, much of Milk Maid's output owes more to West Coast psychedelic groups such as Darker My Love or The Brian Jonestown Massacre, a point assertively demonstrated on newie 'Summertime', aired (and we're told after, messed up!) two songs before the end. In between, the likes of 'Dead Wrong' and 'Back Of Your Knees' more than highlight Cohen's ability to combine catchy melodies with deceptively simplistic riffs that takes us back to a time when Pebbles and Nuggets compilations were the most leftfield records on the market. Afterwards several of our party purchase their recently released long player Yucca, which probably speaks volumes about their performance. While again still in their infant stages as a band, we'd be surprised to see Milk Maid playing such a tiny room when they next visit the city, such is their impact this evening.
Which brings us onto tonight's headliners, Mazes; not exactly a difficult choice as bill-toppers considering their recorded output amounts to more than the other three bands combined. However, what that doesn't excuse is that when all's said and done, Mazes aren't really doing or saying anything different to a lot of bands currently plying their trade up and down the land. While the present fascination with all things lo-fi and slacker makes a pleasant change from the Gang Of Four inspired glut of bands a few years back, there's little separating the likes of Yuck, Fanzine, Male Bonding, Mazes et al. More importantly, where at least two of those aforementioned have at least a dozen memorable songs between them, Mazes have very few. What they do possess is a charismatic frontman in the form of Jack Cooper, whose between-song banter is as engaging (if not more so) than most of his band's musical output. 'Summer Hits' and 'Surf & Turf' off this year's A Thousand Heys long player tick the box marked "nice", as does a furtive tear through The Wipers' 'Messenger' mid-set. For the most part, though, it fails to raise the temperature beyond lukewarm, and ultimately falls into the by-numbers category.
Nevertheless, despite being the veterans in the pack, even Cooper and Mazes are relative newcomers having only formed themselves just over two years ago, so to write them off just yet would be churlish to say the least. Watch this space...
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